By Nathan Frandino and Joseph Ax
HOUSTON (Reuters) -Lawsuits and threats of legal action mounted on Monday on behalf of concertgoers crushed in a stampede that left eight dead at an outdoor rap music festival in Houston three days earlier, as investigators pursued a criminal probe into the tragedy.
Travis Scott, the hometown hip-hop star who was performing on stage Friday night when the incident occurred, canceled a scheduled appearance this weekend at Day N Vegas in Las Vegas, a similar outdoor festival, a source close to Scott said.
Scott announced on Monday he will cover all funeral costs and offer aid to those affected. He is also working with law enforcement and city officials to “respectfully and appropriately connect” with victims and their families, according to a statement.
The victims were crushed in a surge of fans near the stage at NRG Park at around 9:30 p.m., with some unable to breathe and others trampled underfoot. Hundreds of others in the sellout crowd of 50,000 were injured.
Fans described a chaotic scene after a steady escalation of disruptive behavior throughout the day.
The eight victims https://www.reuters.com/world/us/eight-killed-texas-music-festival-stampede-include-college-high-school-students-2021-11-08 ranged in age from 14 to 27 and included an avid high school baseball player, a high school band member who loved to dance and several college students from around the country.
Though he paused the music multiple times after spotting fans who needed medical attention, Scott completed his set. The show continued for 37 minutes after officials declared a “mass casualty event,” according to a Houston Chronicle timeline.
Scott released a short video late on Saturday, saying that while he was on stage, “I could just never imagine the severity of the situation.” He also posted a statement on Twitter saying he was “devastated” and would cooperate fully with authorities.
More than a half dozen lawsuits from victims and their families have already been filed against several defendants, including Scott and concert promoters Live Nation Entertainment Inc and ScoreMore.
Neither Live Nation nor Scott or their representatives immediately responded to requests for comment.
Houston-based attorney Anthony Buzbee told a news conference on Monday his firm planned to sue on behalf of Axel Acosta, 21, who died at the festival, and other victims in a case he said would seek to improve “the way concerts are put on, organized, promoted and managed in the United States and around the world.”
“This concert was planned extremely poorly,” Buzbee told reporters, saying that video footage of the event posted to social media before and during Saturday’s deadly crowd surge revealed scenes of “pure and utter chaos.”
Buzbee said his firm was already representing 35 prospective plaintiffs, “and that number is growing; our phone is ringing off the hook.”
He said his firm’s lawsuit would be filed in the days ahead, naming Scott, concert organizers, a private security firm and others as defendants. “Neither Travis Scott nor his entourage … cared enough about Axel to make even a minimal effort to keep him and others at the concert safe,” Buzbee said.
Basil Baig, whose brother, Danish, died at the festival, told reporters that Scott and the concert organizers “should be held liable and accountable for everything. They have blood on their hands.”
Live Nation’s stock fell 5.4% on Monday.
The company said in a statement on Monday that it had met with authorities and handed over all video footage of the concert. Live Nation also said it had offered refunds to attendees and planned to provide mental health counseling and help pay for medical expenses for victims.
Police have opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Officials said they would interview concertgoers and organizers, analyze video and review the safety procedures that were in place.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the chief executive for the county that includes Houston, has called for an independent investigation.
Roderick Payne, a crowd control expert whose firm provides security for large-scale events, told Reuters that authorities would review the security plan and determine whether mistakes were made.
But he also said there are limits to how much security can do when dealing with such a large crowd.
“You can’t prevent 50,000 people from trampling anybody,” he said.
(Reporting by Nathan Frandino in Houston and Joseph Ax in Princeton, N.J.Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Barbara Goldberg and Jonathan Stempel in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Erwin Seba in Houston and Shivam Patel in BengaluruEditing by Steve Orlofsky and Matthew Lewis)
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